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Gates training is overrated

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

As I said before, I just went through a very unsatisfactory U14 coaching season, where I almost quit because of my lead coach's insistance at running gates all the freaking time. I estimate we spent between 70-80% of the training time running gates.

 

By running gates, I do not mean environments, I mean tall gates, full courses, without any helper stubbies, brushes, paint, nothing.

 

I was working on a rant for a while and almost forgot about it until some other posts reminded me of the issue - figured I'd just finish it and blog it already before I forgot about it, in the hope of preventing others from making the same mistakes.

 

Instead of copy/paste, here's the link to my rant: http://www.racerkidz.com/wiki/Blog:Razie_Ski_Blog/Post:Gate_training_is_overrated

 

I would be interested in some feedback on my thoughts. I did research it a bit, but would like more facts, if you have any.

 

thanks,

Razie

post #2 of 10

Well done.

That should be required reading for starting racers, their parents and more than a few coaches.

Regards,

Steve
 

post #3 of 10

Agreed. I did a little H.S. race coaching and the kids thought they knew it all. Did not want to do drills or free ski just run gates. Which they were decent at but lacked skills that could improve their times. So I made a deal with them. Let's make one run down this ungroomed face and see how solid your basics are. It was steep,deep,wet,old,chopped up snow. Then add race skis to it.biggrin.gif I went first. Everyone of them went down. Fortunately I gained respect and they were a lot more eager to listen after that.

post #4 of 10

razie,

well done.  Couldn't agree more.  In the training center where I coach (I coach kids in all mountain skiing to get them ready to enter  the U program), there is a quote from Ted Ligety to the effect of him saying when he was a kid he skied everything and he did it often.  The other kids would beat him in the gates but he kept skiing everything and eventually he was beating them.  Look at him now.

 

last season I was at a race coach clinic and (I think it was) staff members from USSA presented a video with some of the U.S.'s top teen age racers free skiing in powder and I think all but one of them did a yard sale.  USSA's message to us was to get more free skiing and more terrain.

 

I was just at a PSIA race clinic and it was said several times; learn outside the gates and when you can do it, bring it to the gates for the very reasons you mentioned.  Tactics are practiced in the gates, not technique.

 

I'm fortunate to work at a mountain that emphasizes free skiing and the Head Coach and Snow Sports Director get it.  I'm also fortunate enough to have trained a great group of kids (6-9) this year, all with skiing parents, that many times were out there with us and they get it too.  

 

The only questions I got were "Will they get to ski trees too?" and "Is there any value in them running NASTAR?"  At the end of the season, the parents loved the results.  We did ski gates but it was usually impromptu.  The only time I had it as part of my intended training was in prep for "The Really Big Race" (that's what we call it) and it was the weekend before it and all I did was have them go through NASTAR a few times so the understood how to do it.

 

One of the keys to being successful was getting them to understand why certain things were important.  To be a better racer we have to ski bumps well and doing drills is like eating your vegetables; there good for you even if you don't like them.

 

Ken

post #5 of 10

If it makes any difference, our coaches many years ago said the same thing. If you were having technical issues, sort them out on the hill before you return to the gates. They also 'made' us ski powder and bumps, thought it didn't take any arm twisting at all! smile.gif

 

Another friend said you can only do about 5-6 gate runs at race intensity before your skiing starts to deteriorate. Get your free runs and warmup/drills, etc.. in, do your 5-6 runs of gates, then do more free skiing. Razie, you'll be happy to know that one of the bigger race clubs at the local mountain pretty much canned it's scheduled SL training last Sunday and took the kids out skiing steep powder... all of them where in their SL skis, shin guards, SL helmets, etc... Pretty cool! Gate training in 12-14" of new snow is pretty pointless.

post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by markojp View Post

If it makes any difference, our coaches many years ago said the same thing. If you were having technical issues, sort them out on the hill before you return to the gates. They also 'made' us ski powder and bumps, thought it didn't take any arm twisting at all! smile.gif

 

Another friend said you can only do about 5-6 gate runs at race intensity before your skiing starts to deteriorate. Get your free runs and warmup/drills, etc.. in, do your 5-6 runs of gates, then do more free skiing. Razie, you'll be happy to know that one of the bigger race clubs at the local mountain pretty much canned it's scheduled SL training last Sunday and took the kids out skiing steep powder... all of them where in their SL skis, shin guards, SL helmets, etc... Pretty cool! Gate training in 12-14" of new snow is pretty pointless.

icon14.gif

 

good policy.  We typically adopt the same approach, if you are training seriously 5-8 runs (depending on course length) is all you will get value from before form deteriorates too much and you are not learning.  Conversely, pushing hard on runs 4-6 to try to stay in teh same time band is also a good exercise in that you have to push that much harder and learn to ski through mistakes

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by razie View Post

As I said before, I just went through a very unsatisfactory U14 coaching season, where I almost quit because of my lead coach's insistance at running gates all the freaking time. I estimate we spent between 70-80% of the training time running gates.

 

By running gates, I do not mean environments, I mean tall gates, full courses, without any helper stubbies, brushes, paint, nothing.

 

I was working on a rant for a while and almost forgot about it until some other posts reminded me of the issue - figured I'd just finish it and blog it already before I forgot about it, in the hope of preventing others from making the same mistakes.

 

Instead of copy/paste, here's the link to my rant: http://www.racerkidz.com/wiki/Blog:Razie_Ski_Blog/Post:Gate_training_is_overrated

 

I would be interested in some feedback on my thoughts. I did research it a bit, but would like more facts, if you have any.

 

thanks,

Razie

 

Great blog post Razie. Agree with it.

It's also an issue in general it seems with the specialization in kids sports. One used to play sports according to the season. Fall for soccer, football, running; field hockey; winter basketball, hockey,  volleyball; spring baseball, lacrosse, tennis, track .  etc etc.

Now it seems that coaches want kids to do the same sport all the time. Kids who play hockey have a very tough time also ski racing on the weekends. The hockey coach doesn't like it and you miss games or practices. Some have a policy that if you miss a practice, no game even if you were racing for your mountain team.

We've discussed this before, there's probably a few threads on it. I've dug up one that I quote Bob and Songfta from.

http://www.epicski.com/t/69848/racing-style-all-mountain-style-how-to-work-on-both

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes View Post
 
Very much related, Chili! I had the privilege of working with Phil & Steve Mahre for 15 years or so at the Mahre Training Center at Keystone (now at Deer Valley). I can vouch for their bump skiing ability, even though bumps weren't their first choice of terrain. They were awesome bump skiers....
...
In 1988, I was skiing in the Arlberg region of Austria, home of the famed Kandahar World Cup races. It was four years since the Mahres had retired from the World Cup after their Gold and Silver medals in the Sarajevo Olympic Slalom, and yet the Austrians still revered them as super heroes. They were somewhat less enamored of the rest of the US Ski Team, who they said lacked versatility, because they only skied gates. What impressed them most about the Mahre brothers was that they SKIED--whenever and whereever they could, in any weather, in any conditions. They described a World Cup race one season when a blizzard conflicted with some of the training days. The rest of the US team, they said, stayed in their hotel rooms and complained about the "lousy conditions," while Phil and Steve went out and skied the powder, and the crud, and the steeps....

What many American racers seem not to realize is that race courses have varied conditions, so you cannot expect to win many races if all you do is train gates on groomed runs on sunny days. Phil and Steve themselves were critical of typical American race programs, which seemed to spend more energy working on cross-blocking techniques than on learning how to make a good turn.

Anyway, these stories certainly bring some reality to the ideas we've described here, that racing and free-skiing are the same, and that you can't get really, truly good at one without getting good at the other.

 

Clip of the Mahre's free skiing in 197?  for a CMH Heli skiing promo:

cmhbanff01                                                                                                                            http://youtu.be/j1Yc3YAJ_mU

 

 

From the same older thread:

Quote:

Originally Posted by songfta View Post
 

Quote:
What impressed them most about the Mahre brothers was that they SKIED--whenever and whereever they could, in any weather, in any conditions.

That's the paydirt right there: the best skiers in the world, including the best racers, love to ski anywhere and everywhere. One of my favorite experiences in skiing was getting in some powder turns with the Austrian mens' ski team in 2001, after one of the Snowbasin World Cup races was canceled. Seeing the big smiles on the faces of Maier and Eberharter was so cool: they loved just being able to ski all over the mountain, and they really got a lot out of the terrain.

Looking back to when I was racing, my best seasons were ones where the snow fell so deep early in the season that it wasn't really possible to set safe courses. So a lot of our early training was skiing trees, chutes, cliffs, moguls, powder and the like. We developed keen balance and intuition by doing this, and when we finally got to race (a DH series was usually the first event of the season), our team took most of the trophies. Had we trained any DH gates before going to the races? No, but we'd free-skied for a couple of days on our DH skis - skiing the chutes, powder, and even the bumps (big, SG-style turns across the bumps, at speed, to learn to absorb and balance at speed).

Since then, I've found that good all-mountain, all-condition abilities translate well to the race course. Sure, things have become a bit more specialized (and more homogeneous) with modern racing. Rapidgates, consistently hard snow, tighter sidecuts and such have made racing a much more specialized endeavor. But the best racers out there - the ones who make it far - are usually great all-mountain skiers, as well.

 

 

 

I once did a clinic about ten years ago at Stowe with Barbara Marshall who was an examiner in Psia east. Her son Jesse was on the US Ski Team at the time, placing 3rd that year in the US Nationals slalom behind Bode and Eric Schlopy. We ran into her daughter Chelsea at the ski rack, she was maybe 13 or 14 then, and would race in the Olympics at Vancouver, son Cody was on the team and was seriously injured falling off an escalator in '09, and Tucker is at GMVS school currently with low 20's points in sl and gs. It's quite a racing family!

 

Anyway, on the lift we got into a conversation about kids racing programs at the mountain I ski at. Her comment: "They ski way too many gates. They really just need to learn how to ski. You know Jesse wasn't any good until he was 15. I just taught him how to glide. That's what those kids need."

 

Interesting article by Warren Nickerson of the US Ski Team on Cody Marshall last year.

http://warnernickerson.com/cody-marshall-wins-nor-am-slalom/

 

Here's a somewhat related video on Ted Ligety early racing.

 

           Park City Mountain Resort                                                                              http://youtu.be/G6ys2m8e29k

 

Ligety Skis Alaska:

 

  WarrenMillerEnt                                                                                                                http://youtu.be/Jv6WJr11xkQ

 

Talks about the Alaska shoot:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=y3q8XZ0d0Zs

post #8 of 10

There is also another factor to consider.  A lot of the parents don't think they are getting what they paid for if the kids are not in gates.  They think it is just the coach having an easy time.  We have had kids move to a different mountain program because " they run gates all day there ........"

post #9 of 10

I am also a u-14 coach and I completely agree re not all gates all the time.  But, as some of you mentioned, parents pay the bills.  Many kids only train one or two days a week and gate training is what the parents want.  It is sometimes difficult to get them to buy in.

 

Our program at Wachusett (WMRT) - featured in Ski Racing this month -  does a good job of mixing up gates with USSA skilsquest training.  We do a LOT of directed free skiing and one footed skiing and brush training.  The one footed skiing is IMO the most training bang / buck / run.

 

That said, gates are important.  Kids have to be comfortable and familiar with tech courses.  I wish I had a nickel for every time an inexperienced racer blew a delay becuse it was not ingrained into muscle mem.  It is also difficult to simulate the scraped off hardpack snow you get in a well slipped course that is the reality of ski racing.  The kids can rip pow or corduroy all day. but they also need to be 100% confident in setting an edge on "ice".  This comes with proper equip set-up and mileage on hardpack.

 

That aside, Burke Mt in VT produces a LOT of top racers including Mikaela Shiffrin and their train hill is AWESOME.  But you will just as often find those kids in the woods making big drops into 5" thick trees at crazy speeds.  The Burke training quiver is SG, GS, SL AND TWIN TIPS! :)

post #10 of 10

It has a lot to do with being able to literally "think on your feet". The kids will get more experiences if they ski all types of terrain and learn how to handle the unexpected. Plus, you don't want these young skiers to get burned out.

 

Growing up being a freestyler, we still participated in the weekly races at the local area when we weren't competing. With the exception of a few top racers (DesLauriers brothers), the freestylers beat out most of the racers.

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